On July 31, 2015 at 11pm, a legendary 50-year-broadcasting career came to an end over the soundtrack of The O’Jays “Love Train.”
John Records Landecker never said the word retirement, but there was a certain air of finality as he chanted the words “Alright Alright! Be good to each other every single day!” As “Love Train” faded out, Landecker hung up his headphones, and walked away from one of the greatest radio careers of all time.
I write that, of course, as an incredibly biased friend who produced his show for ten years at WJMK (1993-2003), and co-wrote his memoirs Records Truly Is My Middle Name (2013). But I’ve also interviewed hundreds of radio professionals over the past thirty years, and I know that my high opinion of Landecker is not exactly an isolated one. He inspired a whole generation of radio air personalities, including some of the best to ever grace the Chicago airwaves…
WTMX Morning Man Eric Ferguson: “John is one of the primary reasons I was drawn to a career in radio. I can vividly remember as a kid lying in bed with a transistor radio waiting for Boogie Check to start on WLS. I remember thinking ‘this is what I want to do!’ I always admired how he could spin any topic, call or moment and make it entertaining.”
Nationally Syndicated Personality Jonathon Brandmeier: “When I first heard John Records booming out of my tiny transistor in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin – I said to myself, someday I have to go to there! His contribution to Chicago radio is slam-dunk no contest, 100% invaluable!”
WLS Afternoon Man Steve Dahl: “John Landecker made it possible for someone like me to come into the Chicago radio market and do well. He set the table, by constantly pushing the envelope of conventional radio thinking with his bits (like Boogie Check). He was way more experimental than people give him credit for. He’s a true radio legend.”
WDRV Midday Host Bob Stroud: “John was a master entertainer in the classic art of Top 40 radio. His smart was smart, his dumb was smart. He was the total radio package.”
WLS Night Time Jock (and Landecker replacement) Jeff Davis: “Only a handful of people are ever able to leave an indelible imprint. John Records Landecker’s is undeniable.”
Former WXRT/WLUP/WDRV jock Bobby Skafish: “John Landecker was a broadcasting giant – an innovator who sounded 10 feet tall. There was a power, confidence and authority to his approach, and he was obviously very quick mentally. He believed so you believed. You’d hear the intro to Boogie Check – this “Boogie check, boogie check, ooh ah” chant and just knew something boss would occur. And it did.”
WGN Midday Host Bob Sirott: “One of the reasons all of these people are saying that they got into radio because of John is because he made it sound like nothing but nonstop fun. It never seemed like he was working. Ironic because there was almost never a day when he wasn’t at the station writing, recording, producing bits many hours before his show began.”
Even the programmers John worked for over the years, some of whom he certainly poked fun at in his heyday, recognized the magnitude of his talent.
Former WLS Program Director John Gehron: “John Landecker set the standard for how nighttime top 40 radio should sound. His energy, on-air style and creativity gave WLS a compelling and winning show. Because of the large reach of WLS at night, John influenced a whole generation of young DJ’s. John, more than any other talent on the station, was the voice for the youth generation in the ’70s. He knew what they liked and identified with what was on their mind.”
Hubbard Broadcasting Programming Boss Greg Solk: “John is certainly among the top 3 of Chicago’s all-time great music jocks. While he was hosting nights at WLS in the early ’70s and doing his trademarked ‘Boogie Check’ this 11 year old (at the time) got hooked on radio. I worked with John for too short a stint at WLUP over 30 years ago, but to this day I consider John one of the nicest, most genuine, most respected and certainly most talented radio people Chicago has ever known.”
Former WJMK Program Director Kevin Robinson: “John, more than any other air talent, had a huge effect on my career. As a programmer, I learned more from him than I can put into words. While he put a smile on my face hundreds of times, my greatest single memory of his greatness and poise was 9-11. Planes were falling from the sky as he went fully live and commercial free. JRL’s steady handling of that unprecedented event far into the late – morning is clear to me today as it was 14 years ago. There will be no other John Records Landecker.”
He was still as sharp as he was during his radio heyday on July 31st, still rocking the nighttime airwaves at WLS, and still had a lot of life in his voice. But at the age of 68, John took the opportunity to do something he had never been able to do in 50 years of broadcasting. He left a gig with nothing else lined up at all, because he wanted to enjoy life and try new things.
And certainly you can understand why. There was really nothing left for John to accomplish in radio. The Billboard Air Personality of the Year, Radio & Records Morning Personality of the Year, Achievement in Radio Chicago Morning Personality of the Year, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer had given everything he had to the business he was predestined to dominate the moment his parents had the incredible foresight to choose his name.
What else can you do when Records Truly Is Your Middle Name?